Rockefeller Chapel to sponsor Iran trip

By Matt Johnston

Iran will be the next destination in the series of trips focused on human rights, religion, and social change that Rockefeller Chapel sponsors annually. The trip will give up to 20 students and faculty the opportunity to visit cultural leaders and historic sites over the course of two weeks spent in four Iranian cities. Alison Boden, dean of Rockefeller Chapel and the trip’s organizer, said in an e-mail interview that she selected Iran “because recent trips have been to East and Southeast Asia, to Latin America, and to Africa, and so it seemed time to visit the Middle East, especially given the current political situation there.” Although the trip announcement says “travel to Iran is quite safe for Americans and for people from any religious community (or none),” the group will be taking precautions such as conforming to local dress customs, informing the U.S. Interests Section in Tehran of travel itineraries, and keeping abreast of local situations. The program announcement comes at a particularly tense time in American-Iranian relations, as President George W. Bush has recently chastised the government in Tehran for its nuclear ambitions and its support of insurgents in Iraq. “The political situation means that we will not be able to meet with members of Iran’s government,” Boden said. “It would have been interesting to hear their answer to the ‘axis of evil’ assertion.… This trip is an educational one and does not intend to send any message, but if one wants to infer one, I hope it will be a message of warm academic and humanitarian interest in the Iranian people.” Students interested in going on the trip must complete an application detailing their experiences with human rights, religion, and social change, and must also be willing to discuss the trip with others upon their return. Applications are due February 19.